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The Crater Lake Monster (1977)
A few redeeming qualities among the bad ..........
It's difficult to make a case for recommending "The Crater Lake Monster", because while it is definitely not totally terrible, it has many, many problems. Let's break down some of the bad first. Because of the budget constraints the acting is a real mixed bag. The sheriff is sort of the cream of the crap. All females in the film are beyond bad, and often appear to be reading their script during filming. The two hillbillies take up way too much running time, and their act eventually wears out it's welcome. The story itself is disjointed, and continuity non existent, especially admiring the stars in the sky with noontime shadows and obvious bright daylight. The musical score is awful, and at times grating. Now for the good. The on location scenery is nicely photographed. The stop motion sequences are well done. The film is only 85 minutes. - MERK
Pit Stop (1969)
50s iron bent every which way .....
Pure and simple, "Pit Stop" is a car crash movie that happens to have a story attached to it. The figure eight track will quickly remind you of the dirt in your face racing that used to be. Richard Davalos plays sort of an anti-hero, taking advantage of situations that could work in his favor at the expense of others. Brian Donlevy really doesn't fit here, and acts as though he would rather be somewhere else. Meanwhile, Sid Haig steals the movie, and is definitely the most interesting character. Do not come into this with expectations beyond drive in fodder, and you will be pleasantly surprised. It moves along at a nice pace, and the race scenes are well done. If you enjoy car carnage , this is definitely one to seek out. - MERK
Bad Words (2013)
"Bad Santa" wannabe .......
Jason Bateman's "Bad Words" has a pretty intriguing plot, an adult entering a spelling bee through a loophole in the rules, and then wrecking havoc on the contest. I'm not sure there was enough material here for a feature film? The movie seems padded with unnecessary bouts of foul language, and sex scenes. This would have been an excellent sketch on "Saturday Night Live", but often losers momentum as a ninety minute movie. Also, for dark comedy to work, it needs to be outrageous, but not hurtful. Bateman's methods for getting rid of his competition really borders on sadism, rather than "black comedy". No doubt there are some good laughs to be had but, unfortunately often at the expense of children. - MERK
Man on a Swing (1974)
Fast moving "Who done it?"
Cliff Robertson plays a very frustrated small town Sheriff, trying to solve a murder case. Mucking things up is Joel Grey claiming to be a psychic, who can help Robertson find the killer. Unfortunately, Grey supplies just enough officially withheld information to tantalize the police, but not enough to solve the case. This causes Robertson to challenge Grey's psychic abilities with professional testing that is inconclusive and only further muddy the waters. "Man on a Swing" is based on a true murder investigation, and is superbly edited so that it never bogs down. The viewer is interested right up to the open ended conclusion, and is left wondering, just as the creative script intended. - MERK
Like a stretched "Twilight Zone" episode .....
I cannot jump on board the positive review bandwagon for "Seconds". Although the acting is good, Frankenheimer stretches scenes that just plain lack interest. One example would be the grape stomping orgy. It goes on and on without moving the story forward. The concept of leaving one life for another is nothing that hasn't been seen before, so to have the audience basically in neutral for what seems like at least ten minutes is unacceptable. In other words, let's get on with it, especially since the story is not unpredictable. Frankly I was disappointed, not with the acting, or the black and white photography, or even the musical score. I just thought the story played like nothing more than a "Twilight Zone" episode that had been padded with over long scenes. - MERK
Vastly superior to it's predecessor with a "killer" score ......
"The Stranger Returns", is much better than the first "Stranger" movie, just as "For a Few Dollars More" eclipsed "A Fistful of Dollars". The score here is an absolute "killer" , and very Morricone like. I would say that Warner Brothers has done a great job with the Archive Collection transfer. Colors are sharp and the musical score is clearly a highlight. The story itself, has Tony Anthony playing the low key sly fox, taking a beating, but eventually outsmarting Dan Vadis and his gang. There are several chuckles that actually work, and the action, although predictable, moves along at a good pace. I consider this film to be one of the better non-Leone spaghetti westerns, and is recommended viewing, especially for "spaghetti" fans. - MERK
"Dude" this movie is really awful ........
Any movie that overuses the word "dude" like "Roadkill" really must suck, and this one certainly does. I mean "dude" there is zero character development". The Winnebago vacationing "twenty somethings" are all annoying "dude". The story of Gypsies placing a curse that calls to life a giant turkey necked, scraggly bird is laughable "dude"' This is what happens "dude", when the Sci-Fi Channel , runs out of ideas, they like improvise "dude", with a story that makes no sense. This move has about as much entertainment value as watching a burning orphanage "dude". So like "dude", you have been warned, avoid this like you would a rabid dog, unless of course you like dumb movies "dude". - MERK
Dead Broke (1998)
A play on film ......
"Dead Broke" is essentially a one room play with eight suspects being interrogated in a murder case. You cannot set your expectations beyond this very limited environment. The movie is very much like "Twelve Angry Men", except instead of a sequestered jury, here we have sequestered suspects. The acting is strong and as each of the eight reveal their suspicions, anyone could be implicated in the crime. Things are complicated however, because the victim's body, which fell into a river, has yet to be recovered. The film is a bit long, and the claustrophobic atmosphere monotonous. Nevertheless, persevering to the conclusion is mandatory. - MERK
Ted & Venus (1991)
Bud Cort goes bonkers .......
Make no mistake, "Ted & Venus" is not an easy watch. It is however daring in a way most films fail. Obviously willing to take chances with questionable themes like stalking, obsession, and madness, the movie treads ground that many audiences will not appreciate. If however, you are entertained by the likes of "Where's Poppa?", "Eating Raoul", and of course "Harold and Maude", then you will revel in some of the the dark comedy here. There is a courtroom scene that is especially funny, and there are sporadic situations and dialog that are excellent. It's just that the whole movie feels uneven and this choppiness may be due to a difficult edit? Bud Cort should have realized that beauty is only a light switch away. - MERK
Insulting the audience 101 ........
The primary purpose of any movie should be to entertain. The best way to accomplish that goal is to fulfill what is promised. "Legendary" fails on all counts to deliver a satisfactory viewing experience. The script is infantile, and borders on insulting. For example, instead of ducking into a cave crevice to avoid the rampaging "whatever it is?" the hero finds it necessary to exclaim "let's hide in here". The boating scenes are a complete joke as every time it is necessary to announce "it's at 400 yards, 300 yards, 200 yards, and closing fast". There is no suspense, no sensible science, and a creature that is about as scary as a basket of bunnies. In total, a complete disaster, that fails to deliver on it's promise. To be avoided. - MERK
Blue Collar (1978)
Sometimes brilliant, sometimes boring ............
I realize I am shoveling against the tide here, as most reviews rave about this film. I will agree that the acting by Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel, and Yaphet Kotto is overwhelmingly excellent. The story has something to say about union corruption, the working stiff, race relations, and getting into crime without realizing what could be the consequences. The film flips somewhat uneasily from hilarious Halloween masks with springy eyes and buck teeth, to smashing kneecaps with a baseball bat. I also thought the unresolved ending was disappointing. If "Blue Collar" had fewer assembly line scenes, fewer "F" words, and a more satisfying conclusion, I would have liked it better. It's still a strong drama because of the fine acting, although I doubt there will be many second viewings. - MERK
Def-Con 4 (1985)
First half good but then it happened .......
What starts off as a reasonably interesting sci-fi, suddenly morphs into "Mad Max" nonsense on a zero budget. It's as if all the money was spent on the space stuff, and then the rest was filmed in a junk yard to finish things off. The strong writing of the beginning gives way to dark shootouts. and stupid dialog. Rarely does a film so suddenly descend into oblivion like "Def-Con 4". I really liked everything right up until the astronauts began digging their way out of the half buried space capsule. Once outside, other than the welcome appearance of Maury Chaykin, everything is totally unacceptable from an entertainment perspective. My conclusion is that for a low budget sci-fi, there are far worse out there, but the missed opportunity here is regrettable. - MERK
March or Die (1977)
Some real surprises here .....
First off, Gene Hackman is always excellent in authoritative roles, whether it be "March or Die" or "Hoosiers". As the commanding officer of a Legion assigned to protect a desert archaeological expedition, Hackman argues unsuccessfully, but quite convincingly, that the dig will have dire consequences. The real surprise here is Terence Hill as the soldier who resists authority. This is without question a completely different Terence Hill than the buffoon we see in his "spaghetti westerns". The film takes it's time to develop characters, and then trains them for their destiny with disaster in the desert. There is nothing predictable about this movie, as it has several twists that are non obvious. Recommended. - MERK
Up the Creek (1984)
"Was it as good for you as it was for me?"
Tim Matheson easily carries this "Animal House" follow up comedy. You get a nice dose of his sarcasm, a white water rafting competition, a dog that plays charades, a tad of nudity, good looking outdoor photography, and several inspired hilarious moments. Comparing "Up the Creek" to some other teen romps, I would have to say that it holds up quite well. "American Pie" I rate 6.5, " Animal House" 8.0, and "Up the Creek" 6.0. I'd rank it slightly better than something like "Malibu Bikini Shop" 5.5. The film is fast moving, and rarely a moment goes by without something outrageous happening. It also seems to have aged quite well, since most of the movie takes place in the woods and on the creek. I was surprised how much I liked it. - MERK
Molly and Lawless John (1972)
Totally unrealistic and pointless ......
"Molly and Lawless John" has a very young Sam Elliott and Vera Myles roaming all over New Mexico, after he uses her to break out of her husband's jail. Along the way they pick up a new born papoose, who goes along for the planned escape into Mexico. If your idea of entertainment is watching Sam Elliott shave every ten minutes, then you have your movie. If you are looking for an action Western, look elsewhere. The film plays more like a series of contrived mishaps along the trail, and is overly talky to the point of pointlessness. Big disappointment, even for fans of the actors, and it really is a shame because the talent is there, but the script is way underdeveloped. - MERK
Resting Place (1986)
Slow moving military drama ........
John Lithgow accompanies a Black Lieutenant soldier's body sent home for final resting in rural Georgia. Despite it being 1972, racial prejudice ensues as the soldier is refused burial in the town's all White cemetery. Although prominently featured on the DVD cover, the soldier's Father, Morgan Freeman, has little to do in the film. Things slow down considerably as Lithgow tries to get the truth about how the Lieutenant died, from many fruitless interviews with his Vietnam Unit. Eventually the truth begins to emerge. M. Emmet Walsh's part as a retired Sargent giving advice to Lithgow, seems like little more than time filler. Not a bad film , it just feels like it was stretched to fill a TV slot. - MERK
Gåten Ragnarok (2013)
About on the level of a decent "Sci. Fi. Channel" movie ......
"Ragnarok" really doesn't tread much ground that hasn't already been trampled in numerous "Sci. Fi. Channel" movies. No name actors doing pretty stupid things while a C.G.I. monster pursues them. The lead up to revealing the lake serpent is actually not bad. Norse Mythology is cleverly tied into the plot, and characters are introduced at an acceptable rate. Once the monster appears, believability flies out the window. Necessary equipment seems to develop out of thin air, and decades abandoned underground bunkers are magically illuminated. Nevertheless there is a story here and not just monster mayhem. All in all, you could do a lot worse, especially with some of the "Sci. Fi. Channels" poorer efforts. - MERK
The first half is much better than the second ....
The science leading up to the mountain landslide and resulting tsunami, is far more interesting than the questionable survival techniques that follow. The beginning has breathtaking scenery and is almost all in daylight. Once the impressive c.g.i. tsunami is over, things shift into closeup images in almost total darkness, and the believability scale descends dramatically. I would say that the chances of an ending like we witness is many millions to one. Nowhere is the hypothermia factor even mentioned. Being submerged in what must be frigid fjord water for even a few minutes would most likely be fatal. "The Wave" is not a bad movie, it is just a film that stretches things a bit far. If you can look beyond that, then it is a movie worth watching. - MERK
Edge of Eternity (1959)
Spectacular vibrant colors and unbelievable Grand Canyon stunt work .....
"Edge of Eternity" is without question the finest color photography I have ever seen. The colors of the Grand Canyon are displayed in razor sharp beauty, especially when viewing "Twilight Time's" limited edition Blueray. While the murder investigation is rather ordinary, and the love interest between Cornel Wilde and Victoria Shaw kills time, all is forgiven with the spectacular aerial photography, unbelievable stunts, and fabulous fifties cars on display. The highlight of course is seeing the U.S. Guano tram swinging wildly over the Canyon as Wilde and Mickey Shaughnessy engage in a gun battle. This is truly a one of a kind film, not for it's story, not for it's acting, but for the unforgettable photography and the unique and exciting climax. "Edge of Eternity" is a must see. - MERK
Run, Simon, Run (1970)
Culture clash, revenge, romance, rather tedious .......
Burt Reynolds restrained performance as an Indian framed for murdering his own Brother, is the only surprise in this tedious time waster. The uneasy culture clash between the upper crust and the poor Indians is played for all it's worth. The problem is this comparison does not elicit sympathy, but instead comes across as nothing more than padding for an over simplified revenge story. The Arizona scenery is fine, including several surprisingly effective wide, wide angle zoom shots. Creative camera work cannot save "Run Simon Run" however, because the romance seems unrealistic, the eventual confrontation between Reynolds and his Brother's killer is poorly staged, and the credits roll, leaving the viewer rather dissatisfied. - MERK
Macho Callahan (1970)
Feels like spaghetti ......
Throw some "b" movie actors into a not fully developed revenge plot, and what you get is "Macho Callahan". This filmed in Mexico western has David Janssen, Jean Seberg, Lee J. Cobb, David Carradine, and Bo Hopkins trying their best to imitate the fast dying genre known as "spaghetti westerns". It certainly has the feel of an Italian "oater", with little character development, choppy editing, and revenge as a motive. The difference here is that the script starts out good in a revolting Confederate prison that Janssen escapes from, but then after Jean Seberg puts her bounty on Janssen for killing her husband, things get talky, and the film loses steam minute by minute. Don't expect much more than a slightly above average "spaghetti" type western, and it's watchable, but just barely. Interestingly the VHS box has the running time listed at 2 hours, 39 minutes. Thankfully this is incorrect, because 99 minutes was more than enough of "Macho Callahan" - MERK
How to Murder a Millionaire (1990)
Joan Rivers playing a stereotyped snob out of water .....
And she does an excellent job.The one liners coming from Rivers are something that seem familiar, yet are consistently funny. Alex Rocco is always good, whether it be in a gem like "Fire Sale", or here where he is the innocent husband accused of trying to kill Joan. Watching Joan shimmy out a second floor bedroom window in her Chinchilla coat is a must see. "How To Murder A Millionaire" is good clean fun, with no sex, nudity, or cursing. It just goes to show what talent can accomplish, without having to step down a notch. Joan Rivers was 57 years old when this TV movie was made, and she looks terrific with at least a bunch of cosmetic work already done. The comedy is necessarily "dark", and the story rather simple, yet Joan carries the film into above average territory with her familiar, yet entertaining rendition of a "snob out of water". - MERK
The Hateful Eight (2015)
Eight good actors wasted in the worst movie I've ever seen ......
Now hear this. I have reviewed over 1000 movies, and without a doubt, Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight" is the biggest waste of time I have ever witnessed. 168 minutes to be exact, of the most pretentious garbage of a script, compliments of Q.T. Here is exactly what you get. A claustrophobic gabfest, essentially in one cabin, ultra gratuitous exploding blood squibs, ridiculous over use of the N. word and the F. word, a story that makes absolutely no sense, and perhaps worst of all, 168 minutes of your life gone, with nothing to show for it. The film is neither entertaining nor enlightening. It is however an endless parade of nonsense, that Tarantino mistakenly believed had meaning. Do yourself a favor and tell your friends to avoid this like you would a rabid dog. You see, a 90 minute bad movie only wastes 1.5 hours of your time, while this disaster wastes almost twice that, and for that reason alone this is the worst movie I've ever seen. - MERK
Diamond Men (2000)
"Rightsizing" revenge ......
Great road movie with excellent character development. Unfairly being "rightsized" out of his 30 year diamond sales job, "old timer" Robert Forster, is put on the road to train his successor. This uneasy situation eventually leads to mutual respect, and better understanding of each other. The heartless big company that they now both have to deal with is a perfect example of the "throw away" mentality used by companies to further their own gain at the expense of loyal employees. All I can say is that if you have ever been "let go", you will cherish this film, because in the end things get surprisingly gratifying for our mismatched salesmen. The movie is a winner, and is highly recommended. - MERK
Two Men in Town (2014)
A slow burner with great performances and New Mexico scenery .....
Though the script is somewhat plodding, the film has a genuine quality to it. Forest Whitaker is good as the tormented parolee. Harvey Keitel plays the revenge seeking sheriff. It is Brenda Blethyn however who steals every scene she is in, as Whitaker's parole officer. I would agree that not much happens in this film, yet it is it's low key performances that keep the viewer intrigued. The cast is first rate. In addition to Whitaker, Keitel, and Blethyn, Luis Guzman and Ellen Burstyn also are quite good. If there is a problem, it is with the ending, which is somewhat unresolved, and hangs uncomfortably. I should also mention that the extra on the DVD titled Fences", is very interesting and timely. The interviews with border residents, for and against the border wall, are very informative. - MERK